Sometimes the communication you foster with customers is just as worthwhile as the value you create with your work. So if you ever feel as if you aren’t giving your clients everything they want, it may be time to consider the possibility that the quality of your external communication is lacking.
Five Strategies for Improving Client Communication
Between the pressing demands of sales, marketing, accounting, and your other key business operations, it’s not uncommon to overlook proper client communication. Sure, you interact with your customers, but you may not have a protocol for how to do it efficiently and effectively, on an ongoing basis.
Could that be the case with you? Whether you realize it or not, your commitment to client communication says a lot about the health of your business.
If we accept that this is true, where do you stand? Could there be room for improvement? If you’re not able to answer these questions immediately and without any doubts, then you’re likely to find the following strategies helpful:
1. Just Cut to the Chase
'Since we can say as much as we want in multiple forums these days, almost everyone -- including businesspeople -- provide too much information (or TMI) in their exchanges,' says Michael Feuer, co-founder of OfficeMax. 'In many organizations, the art of cutting to the chase has been lost.'
It’s crazy how much effort many of us go through to cushion whatever we have to say … especially when it might be considered negative. We have all these channels through which we can reach our customers, and we often provide far too many details when only a couple would suffice.
Brevity is a lost art form that you might do well to rediscover and leverage at the right moments.
2. Pick Up the Phone
Another negative byproduct of having so many modes of communication is that we often choose the one that’s the easiest, but not necessarily the best. For example, we’ll get into a rut of sending emails back and forth for hours, and even days, on end, when a single phone call would cover everything.
If you ever find yourself in communication with a customer and it feels as if details keep getting lost in translation, just send the following simple message: 'Could I hop on a quick phone call with you for five minutes?' Chances are you can settle the issue at hand in a much more efficient manner than is possible via email.
3. Speed Things Up
You aren’t the only task on your customers’ minds. They have a to-do list that’s as long as yours and would prefer that they didn’t have to jump through hoops to work with you. So you can set yourself ahead of the competition by taking pride in how quickly and efficiently you communicate during basic tasks … such as invoicing.
Instead of manually developing a unique invoice for every client and then waiting to send it on a certain date after the product or service has been delivered, why not speed up the process by having customizable templates at the ready? You can find great templates such as these on a website like Hloom (and they’re free!).
The same goes for quotes or estimates and job proposals. The more prepared you are up front, the more efficient your execution will be.
4. Assign Every Client a Point Person
The title you choose to use in your organization may be different, but every client you have needs an account manager or point person. This should be an individual who can be reached via email or phone at any time during standard business hours whenever a question or issue arises.
The benefit of having such an in-house contact for each client is that nobody is liable to get lost in the shuffle. It also humanizes your brand, by applying a name and face to your company.
That makes the customer feel like he or she has a personal relationship with you, which is invaluable when the time comes to negotiate.
5. Use SMS When Appropriate
SMS isn’t always the best solution for companies. It can get used as a crutch more than an aid in some situations. But there are situations where SMS is an unquestionably excellent method of engaging clients.
'Use text messaging to get the word out to customers,' industry expert Dan Kamins says. 'If you need to let your customers know about something immediately, the best way to do that is by text.'
Kamins mentions examples such as a power outage that affects the customer, or the need to reschedule an appointment. Use it whenever you think SMS is likely to guarantee that the message will be read sooner.
SMS doesn’t replace the phone call or serve for those situations when you need to send a more detailed explanation via email, but it does offer a real-time avenue for sending out time-sensitive information.
Take a Proactive Stance on Improving Communication
Now is the time to address external communication. It may seem like something that’s unimportant when compared to sales, marketing, and other substantive operations, but the reality is that nothing is ultimately more important than treating your customers well.
The sooner you realize and act on this, the better.